Stimulating imagination in English

English Subject Master Ms Kristen Lizzio highlights some novel ways that
the English Department maintained motivation during lockdown.


2021 was an opportunity to break new ground in the teaching of literature by the English department during more than a term of online learning. Book Week fell in August with all members of the School community encouraged to dress up as a literary character using items around the home. The 2021 theme was Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds and, though all our worlds felt quite small during lockdown, it was pleasing to see tutorials and classes get involved over Zoom. Well done to all who made an effort, however makeshift the costuming.

Dr Erin Sheridan’s Zoom Tutorial with Form V in Book Week costumes

Ms Dominica Nicholls as Hamlet (Alas Poor Yorrick!)

Ms Kristen Lizzio as Kurtz’s Intended from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Dr Alan Dearn as Marcus Clodius Ballista from the Warrior of Rome series

Mr Timothy Derricourt offered his Form V Advanced class a new take on an old tragedy, creating Othello: The Board Game! The aim: leave the rational centre of Venice and embark on a journey through Cyprus, where passion begins to rule and baser natures emerge. The first player to reach 5.1 and return to Venice and the Senate wins. Bonus points are awarded to the player who experiences the fewest tragic experiences. Boys had to apply their knowledge of Shakespearean tragedy, Machiavellian villainy and Elizabethan values and attitudes to create obstacles and progressions within the game: key elements in a critical study essay that no doubt came easily to mind when the play was assessed.

Ms Kelli Smith spent her lockdown term wracking her brain for ways to keep boys engaged in the online learning environment, especially our Form VI classes. The result? A Treasure Hunt creative writing exercise that required participants to find objects around the house, create a piece of origami, find quotes from a novel and take a flat lay photograph of all the items, ‘influencer style’. Boys were then allocated someone else’s photo to use as inspiration for a piece of imaginative writing to add to their portfolio. This activity was such a hit with Form VI that many English masters used it as an end-of-term task with other forms. Creative writing continues to be a skill the English department seeks to hone in our boys and one which takes practice. Encouraging writers to find inspiration in everyday items, moments and intricate details makes for rich characters and nuanced writing.

Below is an example of one of the Treasure Hunt creative writing exercises

We’re excited about what 2022 will bring: hopefully a return to excursions, theatre visits and guest speakers. Lit Week is in the works and will take on a different shape, with lectures and workshops for all classes and masterclasses for extension pupils and interested boys. Stay tuned!